The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.


THERE is no reference to nurses in the official records of the first campus Hospital of 1869. When the Hospital was enlarged in 1876, it was recommended that two nurses be employed, "one male and one female," though the position was still apparently such a menial one that nurses are not mentioned by name in the Regents' Proceedings until 1881, when Dr. E. O. Bennett put in a claim for $130 for thirteen weeks' nursing services during the summer of 1880. The following year two young doctors and one woman were appointed at a salary of $300 each. In 1883 the position of wardmaster was recorded in the Regents' Proceedings; it was abolished in 1891. Apropos of this unusual title, the late Dr. W. J. Mayo wrote to Dr. Peterson in 1937:

In my student days … there were comparatively few nurses, in the modern sense, and a good deal of the work was done by practical nurses, the students, and helpers generally. There was attached to each ward, a wardmaster and wardmistress who were responsible for the care of the patients, and gave the students their orders.

(Peterson, MS, II: 115.)

After 1891 there was a steady growth in the number of nurses; by 1896 there were sixteen. This was probably the result of the authorization in 1891 of a training school for nurses and of a two years' nursing course.

The enrollment in the first year of the School was eight. Seven were graduated in December, 1893. Mrs. Jane Pettigrew, a trained nurse then pursuing medical studies in the University, directed the training. The next year President James B. Angell observed that the course was "attracting a large number of intelligent and devoted women, who render a serv-vice to the sick, hardly inferior to that of the physician."

Graduates of the School, a head clinic nurse and two head nurses, were permanently employed by the Hospital for the first time in 1899. It is also worthy of note that graduates of the School served in the Spanish American War. By 1900 the School had developed a sufficient sense of solidarity to organize an alumnae association, with eighteen charter members. By the year 1924-25, 190 nurses were in training. The administrative nursing staff included, in addition to a matron and a dietitian, a principal of the training school, a superintendent and an assistant superintendent, a director of the Hospital education department, and two instructors.

This rapid increase in the nursing staff Page  998necessitated successive adjustments in the living quarters provided for nurses, which in the early years were inadequate. At first the nurses were quartered in the basement of the Hospital and in adjacent houses, but the completion both of the Nurses' Home in 1898 and of Palmer Ward in 1903, for a time provided some relief. The continual increase in the number of children admitted to Palmer Ward, however, necessitated the removal of the nurses housed in the upper floors of that building to private houses near the campus. Six such houses were taken over by the University for the nurses after the year 1909. The erection of the Pemberton-Welsh Nurses' Residence in 1921 provided space for seventy-five more nurses. This method of housing a continually growing staff became increasingly unsatisfactory. Couzens Hall, erected in 1925, with 285 separate sleeping rooms, finally provided adequately for both nursing staff and student nurses.

At the time the new Hospital was opened, the program of teaching in the Training School for Nurses was reorganized. The instruction in basic sciences was given by regularly appointed members of the faculties, the instruction in practical medical work by the professors in the Medical School, and the instruction in therapy and practical nursing suggestions by the nursing staff. A reorganization five years later provided for one semester's work on the University campus. In 1940 there were 177 students in the School of Nursing and 198 graduate nurses on the Hospital staff. There were also, on the average, 146 enrolled in the courses in public health nursing.


Announcement, School of Nursing, Univ. Mich., 1920-40.
Annual Report of the University Hospital of the University of Michigan, 1892-1920 (continued in President's Report).
President's Report, Univ. Mich., 1876-1940.
Proceedings of the Board of Regents …, 1876-1940.